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Poker is a competitive game that places a strong emphasis on the player’s mental game. Every player is aware of this, as the ability to read and outplay one’s opponents is a key component of what distinguishes poker from other card games and gives it its allure. Many players, however, fail to recognize that to be a great player, you must understand not only how to get along with others, but also how to get along with yourself.
In many ways, humans are similar to machines, and our minds are essentially advanced computer systems. These computers are notorious for developing bugs, falling into unproductive patterns, and ultimately harming our chances. We will have a much better chance of achieving better long-term performance if we understand the common causes of these errors and problems, allowing us to develop strategies to combat them.
Keeping this in mind, the goal of today’s lesson is to go over some of the most common cognitive biases, how they relate to the game of poker, and what we can do to mitigate their effects.
A Preference for Confirmation
Confirmation bias is the most common type of cognitive bias, and it can be extremely harmful to one’s health. Confirmation bias is a phenomenon that affects many aspects of our lives. It is simply defined as when we pay attention to or internalize something only when it agrees with our preconceived notions. This is a very common occurrence that can be traced back to ancient times.
This can happen in a variety of ways in poker, both in terms of supporting ourselves and having doubts about ourselves. For example, a player who enters the game believing that the other players at the table are conspiring against them will pay much closer attention to the actions taken against them than they would normally. A player who enters the game believing they are the best will pay far more attention to their own winning hands than to the hands of the other players.
Both of these situations put a player in a bad mood, which is bad for their performance, and they should be avoided. Instead, make an effort to keep an objective measure of the outcomes in your head so that the fantasy does not trump reality. This can be difficult, but with practice, the action can become noticeably easier.
The error that gamblers make
The gambler’s fallacy was created specifically for people who were playing at the table, and the vast majority of players have most likely encountered it at some point in their lives. This bias is based on the assumption that after seeing a pattern emerge multiple times in a short period of period, a player will see less of it in the future. This bias is founded on this assumption.
This happens frequently for players in a wide range of games, including every conceivable iteration of the game that a person could imagine playing. The vast majority of poker variations are easily accessible on a variety of online casino websites. This boon means that players now have a lot more opportunities to experience changes in odds and probability.
When people see a Hold’em player get a great hand off the flop two or three times in a row, they may be more likely to bet against it happening again on the next hand. This is because people are more likely to bet against something that has a high probability of occurring.
In practice, odds and probabilities do not work in this way. The outcome of a previous round in poker, like the outcome of a round in the majority of other casino games, has no bearing on the likelihood of the next round. This cognitive bias, no matter how difficult it appears, can be overcome if we have a solid understanding of probability.
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A Bias in Outcome
The term “outcome bias” refers to a simple concept that focuses on the outcome or conclusion of a game or hand. This becomes clear when a player evaluates the quality of a decision based on the outcomes that resulted from that decision rather than how they arrived at that conclusion.
This happens a lot in poker, especially with newer players who try to pull off overly aggressive bluffs. Even if a bluff is statistically ineffective, players with outcome biases will regard their decision-making as well-considered, if not genius, if it results in a win. This is because players with outcome biases are more likely to place a higher value on decisions that result in a win.
Avoiding complacency after a successful game or hand is the most effective way to combat this type of bias. Before you congratulate yourself, consider the actions you took to get to this point as well as the actual chances you had going into it. This will allow you to make more informed decisions in the future.
The Peak and End Principle
The final cognitive bias that we will investigate is known as the peak-end rule. Because of this flaw, players pay too much attention to outliers in the game rather than analyzing how the game as a whole unfolded. They then extrapolate their findings based on the small sample size.
This is something that many players do after a few good hands when they internalize success as their baseline level of play. Again, the best treatment for this ailment is to look within, as we need a holistic view of the game to reach the highest peaks.
Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of cognitive biases is that they are simply the result of the human brain. Our brains are wired to recognize patterns, but some of these patterns are completely fabricated. However, recognizing our own biases and how they influence others will put us in a better position to improve both our performance and the outcomes of our games in the future.
It will take time and effort, but any poker player who is serious about improving their game understands that this is an unavoidable part of the process.